American policy makers in the Bush administration believe that they finally have new improved grand strategy toward South Asia, thanks to an Indian-American at the prestigious think-tank, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Mumbaikar Ashley Tellis, one of America’s foremost policy experts, has outlined the grand strategy in a forthcoming report entitled “India as a New Global Power: An Action Agenda for the United States” and scheduled for release July 14, four days before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Washington.
As Tellis testified last month in the House of Representatives: "The record thus far amply substantiates the claim that India will be one of Asia's two ascending powers. It is expected that the Indian economy could grow at a rate of 7-8 per cent for the next two decades. If these expectations are borne out, there is little doubt that India will overtake current giants."
In the agenda Tellis argues that the United States must align with India because:
By 2015, it will have the fourth most capable concentration of power • It will be among the five major economies in 25-50 years • Can be a counterfoil to China • Can stabilize the region littered with failing states.
And this alignment must mean that the U.S. will:
Help India's power to grow to prevent China's dominance • End the illusory idea of military balance between India and Pakistan • Endorse India's membership in the UN Security Council, G-8, International Energy Agency • Remove objections to the Iran-India pipeline • Allow sale of dual-use technology, including nuclear safety equipment
In his policy brief, Tellis, who is a senior associate at the Pentagon-supported think tank, outlines American thinking and points out some of the potential challenges in realizing the new strategic goal towards South Asia of aiding Pakistan but at the same time recognizing India’s pre-eminence in the region. This may be the first time the U.S. is basing its South Asia strategy on positive engagement with Pakistan coupled with a clear acknowledgement of India’s ascendance. In the past, American policy makers have been afraid that support for one would upset the other - and, in fact, it did.
The objective of the strategy as outlined by Ashley Tellis in the new Policy brief published by the think tank is to enable India to become a great power while at the same time assisting Pakistan in attaining security and stability. "By expanding relations with both states in a differentiated way matched to their geostrategic weights," Tellis argues, "the Bush administration seeks to assist Pakistan in becoming a successful state while it enables India to secure a trouble free ascent to great-power status."
According to Tellis, these objectives would be achieved "through a large economic and military assistance package to Islamabad and through three separate dialogues with New Delhi that will review various challenging issues such as civil nuclear cooperation, space, defense co-production, regional and global security, and bilateral trade."
Tellis believes that "if you define power in terms of comprehensive national strength, it is unlikely that the United States will face serious peer competitors for at least another fifty years" but insists that India's continuing quest for security and for great power status must be recognized by the U.S.
It is instructive that when he spoke last year at the India Today Conclave, Tellis had put forth the following questions to his Indian audience: Can India develop a viable strategic partnership with the United States that serves both mutual interests and India's own unilateral interests? Can India develop a relationship with the United States that helps it enhance and magnify its own power?
According to Tellis, while India has every right to maneuver within the interstices of the international system, "but at the end of the day, there is one eight hundred pound gorilla that has to be engaged - and that is the United States.” He goes on to warn: "That gorilla is not going to go away. That gorilla has already put its nose for the first time in modern history, into the physical environment of the subcontinent. And it is in India's national interest, and important for its capacity to generate and magnify its power, to develop a productive and a collaborative relationship with the United States that enhances the interests of the two countries."
This transformation of relations between the United States and India, says Tellis, has occurred through a series of breakthroughs in bilateral diplomatic collaboration, military-to-military relations, counter terrorism cooperation, and public diplomacy.
And already this year, Tellis said, the Bush administration has unveiled a potentially far more radical initiative with respect to India-the United States has pledged to “help India become a major world power in the twenty-first century,” investing the energy and resources necessary to secure its untroubled ascent to great-power status.
Tellis believes that the United States should pursue the following grand strategic objectives towards India and Pakistan.
Vis-à-vis India, the United States should aim to rapidly complete the transformation in U.S.-Indian relations that has been underway since the final years of the Clinton Administration, and which received dramatic substantive impetus in the first term of President George W. Bush, in order to permanently entrench India in the ranks of America’s friends and allies. With the changes that have occurred both globally and in India since the end of the Cold War, a close bilateral relationship that is based on the strong congruence of interests, values, and inter-societal ties, is in fact possible for the first time in the history of the two countries.
Vis-à-vis Pakistan, the United States should aim to assist Islamabad to achieve a "soft landing" that reverses the still disturbing political, economic, social, and ideological trends and enable Pakistan to transform itself into a successful and moderate state. Because of the immensity of the problems facing that country, and because these difficulties are often viciously reinforcing, the Administration ought not to expect that Pakistan will be able to overcome all obstacles entirely by the end of President Bush’s current term. Consequently, U.S. objectives would be satisfied if Pakistan makes sufficient progress so that the trend lines with respect to good governance, stable macro-economic management, investments in human capital, foreign and strategic policy behaviors, and ideological orientation, are both positive and durable.
Tellis says he "would urge the Administration to pursue at least the following initiatives to be announced during the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to Washington on July 18, 2005, as a means of sustaining the momentum of the on-going transformation in U.S.-Indian relations:
Invite India to participate in the Generation IV, ITER, and Radkowsky Thorium Fuel (RTF) international research programs pertaining to the development of safe, proliferation-resistant, advanced nuclear reactor technologies. • Declare that, pending a permanent solution to the problem, the United States would permit India to purchase the requisite quantities of safeguarded low-enriched uranium required for its next fuelling of the Tarapur 1 and 2 nuclear reactors. • Inform the Government of India that the United States would not impede the construction of the Indian-Pakistani-Iranian gas pipeline so long as New Delhi cooperates by all means necessary-including by terminating or suspending work on the pipeline-if the international community were to consider penalizing Iran at some future point in time for persisting with its uranium enrichment program."
Despite all the controversies swirling around other foreign policies of the Bush Administration, it is worth remembering, says Tellis, that as far as India is concerned the President has got it absolutely right - indeed got it absolutely right even before he took office in January 2001:
"Often overlooked in our strategic calculations is that great land that rests at the south of Eurasia. This coming century will see democratic India’s arrival as a force in the world. A vast population, before long the world’s most populous nation. A changing economy, in which 3 of its 5 wealthiest citizens are software entrepreneurs. India is now debating its future and its strategic path, and the United States must pay it more attention. We should establish more trade and investment with India as it opens to the world. And we should work with the Indian government, ensuring it is a force for stability and security in Asia."
Apart from his association with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Tellis has become a valuable bridge between India and the US and continues as an advisor to the US government. He knows the Indian aspirations because he grew up there. He knows American constraints and burdens because he became an American, having come to the US in 1985. Tellis completed his master's from the University of Bombay and his PhD from the University of Chicago.
Previously, he served as senior adviser to the ambassador at the embassy of the United States in India. He also served on the National Security Council staff as special assistant to the president and senior director for strategic planning and Southwest Asia, becoming the highest ranking Indian American in the White House. . Before his government service, he was for eight years a senior policy analyst at RAND and professor of policy analysis at the RAND graduate school. He is the author of India’s Emerging Nuclear Posture, coauthor of China’s Grand Strategy: Past, Present, and Future, and has recently edited Strategic Asia 2004-05: Confronting Terrorism in the Pursuit of Power.
Some analysts are already suggesting that America’s new strategy is aimed essentially at containing and thus undermining China, whose giant economic strides are causing enormous worry in Washington. They say that the US does not believe in open competition, despite drum-beating about the virtues of free trade. For Americans, free trade means they should be free to export their goods to other markets but others must not bring their goods to the US.
Almost all economists agree that, should China continue to maintain the growth rate it has achieved in the last 15 years, in 20 years’ time it will have the largest economy in the world. This is something the US is determined to prevent; hence its provocative policies and statements concerning China. India is being groomed through trade offers and enhanced military and political interactions to take on China.
Will India and America live up to each others expectations? More crucially, in a unipolar world is India capable of playing the kind of role assigned to it by the 800-pound gorilla?